... in amsterdam

The kids are alright

01 Mar 2008 | 190 words | stupidity amsterdam netherlands advertisement

So since two weeks or so the counties’ biggest super market chain (Albert Hein) is having some stupid action where you get a plastic smurf every time you spend more than €15 on groceries. Plus the stores are full of smurf themed advertisements and they play stupid smurf music in the background and there is poster advertisements with smurfs on them all over the city. No idea why anyone would think that this is a good thing.

As far as i am concerned i can hardly think of anything more insulting and stupid than being asked by some 16 year old girl at the cash register if i would like to have a smurf with my groceries. but then there seem to be lots of people who are in fact happy with this infantilization of society….

Yesterday on my way to the albert hein we encountered a group of teenagers burning plastic smurfs on the pavement in front of the shop entrance, which gave me back a tiny little bit of hope: at least the kids (or some of them) are still alright!

Photo of burnt smurf by Sara Kolster

KLM your fluchthelfer

11 Feb 2008 | 239 words | amsterdam airtravel migration activism

A couple of years ago when we were busy with a number of campaigns against airlines who allowed forced deportations from europe on their flights i did a spoof website targeting the KLM (‘KLM – uw uitzettingsagent‘) that was part of a campaign with the same name of the now defunct autonoom centrum in Amsterdam.

It is kind of ironic to see that now more than 5 year later the KLM (in an email offer to the german members of their flying blue frequent flyer programme) advertises itself as a ‘fluchthelfer’ (german for ‘people smuggler’), which is exactly the opposite of what we accused them to be back then:

Of course it equally ironic that by now we are on most of the frequent flyer programs of the airlines we campaigned against. But then we already had a certain fascination for frequent flyer programs back in those days (which is beautifully expressed in gif animation on the page of the lufthansa deportation class active miles programme).

Update [12-02-08]: Predictably the Dutch version of the email offer fails to carry over the irony of the German version (did i ever mention that Dutch is quite an incomplete language?). I received the same email offer today and where the german says ‘fluchthilfen‘, the dutch version just says ‘break-away’ (em did i mention that dutch is basically a bad rip-off of german with a bit of english thrown in at random places?).

Migrant Media Metropole

31 Jan 2008 | 416 words | migration labor politics capitalism amsterdam

This saturday my friend Valery (together with Eric & Merijn) are hosting a mini conference called ‘Migrant Media Metropole – New labour struggles in the global city‘ at the Balie in Amsterdam.

Migration and media-activists gather with theorists and labour organizers to discuss and share best practices in the fight against precarity and insecure labour conditions. Sharing inspiring examples of social justice unionism and creative campaigning like “Justice for Janitors” in the U.S. and “Cleaners For a Better Future” in the Netherlands. The aim is to challenge traditional labour practices, syndicate and inspire a sharper network of social activists, academics, media makers and artists to join contemporary urban labour struggles and confederate into a globalization from below.

This mini conference, which brings together lots of people i have been working with over the past few years, should be extremely interesting for anyone being even remotely interested in issues of migration and labour. Originally it was planned as part of the escalation strategy of the Cleaners For a Better Future campaign here in the Netherlands.

As part of this campaign cleaners, organized by the FNV trade union, in collaboration with activists from social movements in the Netherlands fought for a minimum hourly wage of €10 and a number of other social befits. The campaign made heavy use of direct actions (which is relatively new and uncommon for unions in the Netherlands) and ultimately succeeded in realizing all the demands of the cleaners:

We won 10 euros an hour for everyone starting on January 1st 2009. Workers above 8 years seniority will get the 10 euros in April of this year while everyone else will go from $8.50 to $9.70 an hour in April as well. We got an extra paid holiday, additional travel pay increase, Dutch and vocational training on company time for every worker, initial language to protect staffing levels upon contract change and full access. The contract will cost employers and clients 135 million euros. This is a national agreement covering 150,000 cleaners.

As far as i can tell this is mighty impressive (although V. who expected this struggle to go on for much longer describes this sudden victory as a ‘premature ejaculation’). It seems as if there are very few places in the world with a minimum hourly salary of 10 euros for cleaners (ironically one of them seems to be the kingdom of Belgium, where the minimum hourly salary for cleaners is €10.73 – but then cleaners are called ‘surface technicans‘ in Belgium).

Sharia exam (why is copying called stealing even though the original does not disappear?)

23 Oct 2007 | 407 words | amsterdam islam file sharing piracy copyright

Since i am going to iran in less than two weeks i thought it might be useful to go take the sharia exam at paradiso tonight. but as i was kind of late, i did not get a chance to participate (no more voting machines). the whole thing was about screening recordings of questions posed to TV imams (like Yusuf al-Qaradawi) who have shows on arabic TV stations such as Al Jazeera. After a questions was shown you would be given three possible answers and had to decide which of the three answers would be given by the imam (typical questions are something like ‘is it allowed to kiss my husband while i am fasting?’ with ‘yes, the prophet did this himself’, ‘no, humans are too easily tempted for more intimate conduct’ and ‘yes, but only on the cheek’ as possible answers’).

Both questions and answers were highly entertaining and it is hilarious to see how blunt these TV imams are: generally someone would pose questions in third person (‘my friend has not been doing his prayers since….’) and the imam or TV anchor person would respond by directly addressing the caller (‘so you have not been doing your prayers…’).

After the show there was the possibility to pose questions to 4 locals imams which made me go and ask 2 of them if downloading/copying things from the internet is considered equally bad as stealing (which clearly is considered to be haram). the first imam (Yassin el Forkani) expressed the opinion that this can only be considered stealing if it is done while there are other ways to obtain the work that do respect the interest of the author to get paid (e.g if i am downloading a film that is not available legally, it is ok, even if the film is protected by copyright). guess this means that there would be no orphan works problematic under sharia law.

Now unfortunately the other imam was of a slightly different opinion, as according to him downloading/copying is haram if it violates other peoples copyright regardless if there is actual harm being done to them. Sounds a bit strange to me to make the interpretation of the sharia depended on local copyright legislation, but then the guy works as imam for the Dutch prison service so i guess he values local law a bit more than your average imam. Guess i will stick with the first interpretation for now…

Most beautiful armband ever

20 Oct 2007 | 45 words | fashion amsterdam

Spotted on the arm of some lost Italian lady who strolled into the opening of the video vortex exhibition at montevideo inquiring for directions to envy. The tiles are almost the same as the ones of the mah-jong set i own:

makes me slightly envious.

Collateral knowledge...

05 Sep 2007 | 247 words | amsterdam exhibition art travel photos

… used to be the subtitle of this blog for a while (in fact it still is, but i have not really found a place in the layout where i could put the subtitle). in the meanwhile (which is the title of the blog) collateral knowledge has teamed up with identity & aesthetics and got promoted to be the title of the second el-hema koopavond (evening shopping event) at mediamatic in Amsterdam on the 13th of September:

According to the programme i will present my idea of ‘collateral knowledge’ by ways of a nice old-fashioned slideshow (with a twist) of my travels through Dubai, Lebanon, Amman, and Damascus. Also presenting is my dear friend Tarek Atoui who will close the evening by a performance dedicated to the populations who have been suffering from the latest political and military events striking Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq (Tarek sounds a bit like a diplomat these days!). The evening will be opend by Mounira Al Solh who – again according to the programme – will present her artistic practice, wherein she addresses issues of identity and aesthetics by weaving together matters related to Lebanese politics, diaspora, immigration, and the condition of the art world.

Should be a splendid evening, so if you are in Amsterdam make sure to drop by. The whole thing will start at 2030h and entrance seems to be free (i guess they expect you to buy t-shirts like crazy). Many thanks to Nat for pulling this together.


26 Aug 2007 | 276 words | art amsterdam exhibition fashion netherlands photos

This weekend the el hema الهيما project by mediamatic finally opend. The idea behind it is to create an arabic identity for the HEMA store chain (brand) which is about as Dutch as it can get.

The project had gotten quite a bit of media attention as HEMA had been so stupid to threaten to sue mediamatic for trademark infringement some 4 weeks back (which is more of less the best free publicity you can get). The whole thing is really well executed (much respect to the whole team that worked on it over the last two months). They did not sell anything on the opening night on friday (much to everybody’s dismay) and when they finally started selling the merchandise they almost got run over by hordes of dutch people who acted as if t-shirts (and condoms, chocolate, towels and underwear) with arabic script are something that that never existed before:

Just try to image the opposite scenario: Arabs going crazy over t-shirts with latin script on it (hint: does not really happen unless you are taling about expensive brand names). today when i passed by mediamatic there was a line stretching almost 100m outside of the shop. seemed like they were selling the first european iphones or something.

While the t-shirts are really nice (although the my favorite one does not even have text on it) my favorite part of the whole installation is the little arrow on the celing in one of the corners that indicates the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca (‘qibla’ / قِـبْـلَـة‬). Makes me almost want to have one for my flat….

More pictures (from the fashion show) here

Change & rain

20 Jul 2007 | 154 words | amsterdam architecture mobile networks photos rain

It is a bit more than a month that i have left Waag Society and started working for Kennisland | Knowledgeland. Although i have not really had time to reflect it feels really good to work for a new organization (and with new colleagues!!) after almost 5 years at the Waag and there is lots of exiting stuff ahead.

However for some strange reason the time i have been at KL more or less corresponds with the period of extremely shitty weather here in Amsterdam, which is best illustrated by this picture of the building that houses KL’s offices (on the 4th floor) taken on monday evening:

Picture taken from the at5 website, where it is credited to 'Inge

Which somehow reminds me of this picture of the Waag (sorry no higher resolution available), which also explains my sisters reaction (looks like disneyland again!’) when she first saw the picture of the KL building.

Future generations will be lost...

09 Jul 2007 | 331 words | amsterdam maps tourism stupidity gps

And i mean this literally. I have already written about the degrading orientation skills of London cab drivers, but in the last couple of days i noticed a much more alarming trend. on three occasions i have spotted people using those irritating gps based car navigation units to walk(!) around town. Friggin’ insanity! what do people think they have brains for these days?

First time i noticed this was in the phone shop where two female japanese tourists enquired about the stand alone gps units and bought one although the sales-clerk warned them that it only had map data for the Benelux on it. They replied that they were fine with Amsterdam and Bruxelles and needed nothing else, bought it and left the shop. Then the other day i saw a group of tourists wandering along the canals one of them holding one of these units in his hands. Tonight cycling back form central station i noticed two teenage girls walking along the street both of them staring on the screen one of them was holding one of these devices in her hands:

This time i actually stopped and asked them what they where doing with with that thing. they replied that they used it as a map as they were not form here (obviously! – judging by their accent they came from some Scandinavian country) and that it was in fact much better than a map as they never managed to properly read traditional maps anyway.

I think this fundamentally disturbs me. makes me wonder if people will start removing parts of their brains in order to lose weight. On the bright side this of course points to a much better future for the inhabitants of major touristic hotspots as they won’t be asked for the directions all the time anymore. Thinking of this, this might actually mean that one day in the near future drunken British males will be able to find the amsterdam red light district by themselves…

Why xs4all (my ISP) rocks...

31 May 2007 | 289 words | bandwidth internet amsterdam

Upon coming home tonight, i found a large envelope from xs4all (my ISP) leaned against the door of my apartment. Felt like there was a t-shirt inside and sure enough there was. The included letter referred to my recent switch to a xs4all only subscription (ADSL without having to pay a fee to the former national telco KPN for a landline): Apparently there have been problems with the bandwidth of these connections (which i have not really noticed) as the majority of the people who have switched over to this new form of ADSL subscriptions are ‘heavy users’:

when starting to offer xs4all only we have connected relatively small groups of customers to one port. However we have discovered that this group of customers has generated so much traffic that the speed of the connections dropped during peak hours. In other words: our loyal xs4all subscribers are typical ‘heavy users’ that use every bit available to download :). [translations mine]

The letter goes on to describe that they have reduced the number of subscriber lines per port and that the speed issues should be resolved by now. they offer their excuses and go on to state:

… and secretly we are proud that our customers do not fit in the standard profile of our [downstream] network provider. To thank you for your active contribution [?? i did not even notice the whole thing] and in order to compensate you for your troubles we are sending you a unique t-shirt. It has been specially designed for this occasion and is produced in limited edition. we hope that you will wear this t-shirt with pride and that you will continue to download a lot with XS4ALL only.

I guess i will…

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: